Feeling weighed down?
A new research paper suggests that gravity may be a leading cause of irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS.
“As I thought about each [pre-existing] theory, from those involving motility, to bacteria, to the neuropsychology of IBS, I realized they might all point back to gravity as a unifying factor,” writes author Dr. Brennan Spiegel, of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California.
“It seemed pretty strange at first, no doubt, but as I developed the idea and ran it by colleagues, it started to make sense.”
Spiegel found potential connections that the many organs that make up the abdominal tract — ones which “form a superstructure” — may be prone to pressure from the Earth’s gravitational, 1G forces (9.8 meters per second squared).
“Our body systems are constantly pulled downward,” Spiegel said in a press release. “If these systems cannot manage the drag of gravity, then it can cause issues like pain, cramping, lightheadedness, sweating, rapid heartbeat and back issues — all symptoms seen with IBS. It can even contribute to bacterial overgrowth in the gut, a problem also linked to IBS.”
He describes this phenomenon as “gravity mismanagement,” saying this can trick a person, usually under duress, into thinking that major physical changes are coming to their environment.
“As alignment with gravity falters and there is a mismatch between expected vs actual G-force strain, pain grows in frequency and intensity,” he wrote. “In essence, musculoskeletal pain can serve as a direct marker of gravity mismanagement.”
And, yes, IBS might be partly psychological — but still tied to gravity, according to the doctor.
“Our nervous system also evolved in a world of gravity, and that might explain why many people feel abdominal ‘butterflies’ when anxious,” Spiegel said.
“It’s curious that these ‘gut feelings’ also occur when falling toward Earth, like when dropping on a roller coaster or in a turbulent airplane. The nerves in the gut are like an ancient G-force detector that warns us when we’re experiencing — or about to experience — a dangerous fall.”
He theorizes that when a person feels anxiety run its course through their digestive tract, they may be subconsciously bracing for changes in gravity as if they’re going down a roller coaster.
“People with IBS might be prone to over-predicting G-force threats that never occur,” Spiegel continued.
Just like how some can handle the big drop on a roller coaster better than others, the same principle applies to how their systems manage gravity while anxious. He calls this concept “G-force vigilance.”
Spiegel also pontificates that a lack of serotonin — a brain-secreted chemical tied to IBS, anxiety and depression when hypo-produced — could be a side effect of Earth’s geophysical conditions.
“These may be forms of gravity intolerance.”